Before we get underway here, I’d like to thank my parents for making the trip to Rockleigh last night, in addition to mi hermanos un hermanas.
Thanks to Yehudah for the great pictures, as always, in addition to John Ford and Drew.
Thank you to McHale and Skoop for the endearment and endless words of direction and encouragement.
June 20th marked the second to last race in the first Rockleigh series. Whereas initially, we were to have 6 races, we not have had 3, with 1 to go – 2 were called on account of God’s wrath in the form of dangerous weather. As the General Classification stood before the race:
1. Lainel Stewart: 26
2. Didier Forero: 22
3. Eli Curt Fuld: 20
and the rest followed with 15, 14, 11, etc.
Which meant that in order for me to advance, I’d need to beat Didi by at least 2 positions (to take second) and Lainel by at least 4 (to take the yellow jersey). It was an exciting mix of emotions to say the least.
As we line up, we hear that an A racer went down in the penultimate lap – who we later find out to be Ted. He ended up heading straight into a tree.
We waited around for 10 minutes, before we took a lap…and were then ushered off the course as the ambulance came and scooted Ted away. We waited around some more, and finally took off with 1 neutral lap for a shortened 30 minute race. I looked left, saw my family, and took off.
We eventually got to racing and rode around and around in cirlces, as these types of races generally go. My plan for this race, as I went over with Marcos Zorilla, was to sit in until 2 to go. At which point, the entire Teams Cosmic – Carve Systems and Montecci would make their way to the front of the race to block the field and any would-be chasers. As such, I sat in and waited for the bell.
The pace was pretty hot from the get-go, considering the race was shortened to 30 minutes. Everyone was pretty antsy because of that. I did my best to keep my eye on Lainel, but wasn’t really worrying about him as much as I had in previous races – I was more focused on racing a smart race.
Eventually, I did see an opening. Being the opportunist I like to think I am, I went.
Harold Chang sees me attacking and drops the hammer to suck my wheel.
We stay away for about 2 laps or so. My pull lasts for about 2 or 3 pulls, then Harold pulls through.
I pull through and look back, Harold’s gone. And the field’s rapidly approaching. Well, so much for that…
As I settle back into the pack, I begin to think about Lainel and set my sites for his wheel. He notices.
Various attacks are launched, and are brought back, in turn, in order. One break organizes with an Asphalt Green racer, a Montecci racer and one of Lainel’s Jamaican boys. Ivan, being the dutiful teammate he was, went to the front and drilled the pace. He increased it to ludicrous speed and shut down the break, crushing many dreams in the process.
With 2 to go, DD and Lainel made a break for it. Foolish of DD because he KNEW Lainel hates working – that wheelsucker will suck wheels all day long to keep his legs fresh for the sprint. I honestly and sincerely think the race was decided because of that break. We didn’t chase hard. I moved to the front and drove the pace a little, opening my legs up for the sprint.
With 1 to go, the 2 of them are still away – 2 riders bridged up to join them, as I fell in with the field and got ready for the sprint.
As we rounded those 4 over-ridden corners one last time each, we absorbed the small break and got into formation for the sprint. On the back straight, I realized I was too far back at ~15th wheel or so, and began to move up as everyone slowed down for the chicane. Coming into turn 3, I spotted Marcos and put all the faith I had in my skills to use – I cut the turn real sharp and made a beeline for Marcos.
“Marcos, I’m here,” I breathed. No reaction. “I’m here, Marcos!” He flips his head and nods. That’s all it took. As we entered corner 4, Marcos emits a loud noise – something that could be mistaken for a scream, and riders move out of his way. He takes the inside of the turn with me in tow and then motions for me to pass him. A short leadout, but with a certain panache you don’t really find in leadouts these days.
Just as I’m dropped off, I find Lainel’s wheel. DD had just moved off the Jamaican sprinter’s wheel and is advancing on the right side – too early, in my opinion. Lainel sees this and, just as I latch onto his wheel, begins his sprint. Out of his saddle, with his bike flinging from side to side, he barrels down the stretch of road owning up to the dangerous riding style he’s known for.
A conversation I had had 2 days earlier with The Hell of the East, Michael Zak, reverberated through my head. “But Mike, how will I know when to pull through and sprint?” You’ll know, Eli, was what he told me. You’ll know because you know you can beat him.
In that moment, I knew I could beat Lainel. We had just passed a sprinter, so I knew the lane to my left was clear. I pulled left, out of harm’s way and began pumping my legs. Cool Runnings had already been sprinting for 5-10 seconds at this point and I felt him slowing down. It was time to take him. What happened next was completely unexpected and uncalled for.
All of a sudden, Cool Runnings gets the idea to try and pass the Toga racer in front of him. Without warning, he doesn’t move over, as would be expected. He drastically changes lines and makes a bee line straight for my wheel. I have indicated his flagrant riding style in this moving image.
Juan took 4th place and I took 5th. If I weren’t forced off the gas and onto the brakes and into the defensive would I have won? Probably not. Would I have had enough points to take the jersey? Probably not. But if you were to ask me at this point a month ago if I had thought the fight for yellow would be this close, I would have answered the same thing: Probably not.
There’s no way of knowing what would have happened, so the discussion is futile. Cool Runnings, the former Category 1 racer who moved to America and now races as a category 5 or on a 1-day-license, races dangerously: that’s not a secret. Everyone knows it. Probably because he’s used to more confident category 1 racers. Whatever the reason, he doesn’t belong in our race, racing the way he does.
He was dropped from 4th place to 6th place, dropping Juan in 3rd and me in 4th.
The new points standings:
1. Cool Runnings – 31
2. Eli Curt Fuld – 29
3. DD Forero – 25
DD, you better get your butt in tow – I’m taking Lainel down in the final Rockleigh, and you best be right behind me.